Welcome to the GradCafe

Hello!  Welcome to The GradCafe Forums.You're welcome to look around the forums and view posts.  However, like most online communities you must register before you can create your own posts.  This is a simple, free process that requires minimal information. Benefits of membership:

  • Participate in discussions
  • Subscribe to topics and forums to get automatic updates
  • Search forums
  • Removes some advertisements (including this one!)
  • 0
WhyNotGradSchool

Can you leave a program for another before the semester beings?

Question

I accepted admission to school A, gave a down payment of $200.00 and signed their acceptance form, last week. Yesterday morning I get an e-mail from school B, where I'd rather go, saying they might have funding for me. Two professors can support a doctoral student in their lab and to contact them via e-mail. I e-mailed them yesterday to talk about their research and set up a meeting.

Can I switch universities without any legal issues? School A is offering partial funding. Not sure if school B will be full or partial.

 

If you need more details please ask, I might be forgetting something.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

6 answers to this question

  • 0
1 hour ago, WhyNotGradSchool said:

Can I switch universities without any legal issues? School A is offering partial funding. Not sure if school B will be full or partial.

 

 

That form you signed is a binding legal contract. It protects both you and the school. Having said that, I don't believe any university would want to force a student to come there because it would not be a healthy situation for all involved. You do, however, need to write a formal letter to the department chair, copying the DGS and perhaps the dean of the graduate school. They need to respond similarly in order to void the contract. Just remember academia is a small world, if you plan on teaching, and professors have friends everywhere. Why don't you talk to your advisor about this?

Edited by cowgirlsdontcry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
18 minutes ago, cowgirlsdontcry said:

That form you signed is a binding legal contract. It protects both you and the school. Having said that, I don't believe any university would want to force a student to come there because it would not be a healthy situation for all involved. You do, however, need to write a formal letter to the department chair, copying the DGS and perhaps the dean of the graduate school. They need to respond similarly in order to void the contract. Just remember academia is a small world, if you plan on teaching, and professors have friends everywhere. Why don't you talk to your advisor about this?

Orly? :huh: Can you enlighten us on what makes this a "binding legal contract?"

OP: If School B, is on this list (CGS Resolution), School B should request that you present them with a letter from School A that says you are released from your previously accepted offer. Ask for the release. They will grant it. It won't be a big deal. A.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

All states, except Louisiana, operate under common law and equity. The basic elements of a contract are mutual assent, consideration, capacity, and legality. In some states, the element of consideration can be satisfied by a valid substitute. While I have not seen the form Why Not speaks of, I would assume that both parties have signed it. Consideration was provided in form of a stipend and/or waiver of tuition, etc. on the part of University A, while Why Not was to be given an education equivalent to (Masters or Ph.D.) and to provide reciprocal consideration as a Research or Teaching Assistant during his tenure as a student at University A. Both parties have official capacity to sign the contract, in that they represent either themselves or sign on behalf of the department/university. The legality of a document always concerns whether the parties have agreed to doing everything in a legal manner and does not involve doing anything to the detriment of either party. I was going to provide a link but couldn't get it to work. I had to sign a contract each year I was a master's student wherein I was given a stipend for my performing adequately both as a student and as a Graduate Assistant. There are also term limits in the contract as they cannot be open-ended. Although I was a GA both years, I was given a contract each year. I have signed both the offer letter and the accompanying detailed form for my Ph.D. program beginning in the fall, which together form a contract between me and the university.

Edit: P.S. I was a paralegal for almost 20 years prior to deciding to gain a Ph.D. so I do understand contract law and what comprises it.

Edited by cowgirlsdontcry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
On 5/19/2017 at 5:47 PM, cowgirlsdontcry said:

All states, except Louisiana, operate under common law and equity. The basic elements of a contract are mutual assent, consideration, capacity, and legality. In some states, the element of consideration can be satisfied by a valid substitute. While I have not seen the form Why Not speaks of, I would assume that both parties have signed it.

Seems like a problem. 

I do like how you've turned a resolution between graduate schools into a legal contract. 

 

On 5/19/2017 at 5:47 PM, cowgirlsdontcry said:

Consideration was provided in form of a stipend and/or waiver of tuition, etc. on the part of University A, while Why Not was to be given an education equivalent to (Masters or Ph.D.) and to provide reciprocal consideration as a Research or Teaching Assistant during his tenure as a student at University A. Both parties have official capacity to sign the contract, in that they represent either themselves or sign on behalf of the department/university.

LOL. 

 

On 5/19/2017 at 5:47 PM, cowgirlsdontcry said:

I had to sign a contract each year I was a master's student wherein I was given a stipend for my performing adequately both as a student and as a Graduate Assistant. There are also term limits in the contract as they cannot be open-ended. Although I was a GA both years, I was given a contract each year. I have signed both the offer letter and the accompanying detailed form for my Ph.D. program beginning in the fall, which together form a contract between me and the university.

Cool story. I signed a rental agreement once. It was awesome.

 

On 5/19/2017 at 5:47 PM, cowgirlsdontcry said:

Edit: P.S. I was a paralegal for almost 20 years prior to deciding to gain a Ph.D. so I do understand contract law and what comprises it.

That's cool. But you're neither a lawyer nor have you seen the offer letter. If the offer letter is anything like the bajillions of other assistanship offers, your signature indicates that you intend to accept the offer financial support and that you've read the terms and conditions of your support. I have never seen conditions from the CGS resolution incorporated into the terms and conditions of the award. Probably because they have no legal recourse if you stiff them and enroll elsewhere. The CGS resolution is usually linked to at the end of an offer letter to let you know how graduate schools (and the prospective) student are expected to conduct themselves.

Jeez. This stuff is dangerous. Don't hold yourself out as a legal expert if you aren't one.

 

OP: Contact school A and ask for a release. They will most likely grant it without a fuss.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

In most cases, when a student signs an offer letter, even if the letter has financial considerations involved, the student is not legally bound to attend that school.

It seems like there are some semantics on what is a "legal contract" that I won't get into because it's not important. Whether or not there is a contract, what is actually important is the terms of the agreement if either party decides to break the contract.

In most cases, the answer is nothing. I have never seen an offer agreement that legally requires a student to attend a certain school. That doesn't even make sense---every student can always drop out of their academic program if they want to.

The only time I think it really matters is if you have already received the funds for an award or something. Usually these terms are covered in a different agreement than the offer but generally, if you are awarded, say, $5000 for the Sept-December term, and you drop out in October, there are at least 3 possibilities, depending on the terms of the award. Either you will be required to 1) pay back the entire $5000 or 2) pay back a pro-rated award amount for the time you were no longer a student, or 3) pay back nothing (in rare cases). In this case, you do have an obligation---there will be consequences if you decide to not follow through on your end of the agreement.

In addition, for things like TA or GA, it is often the case that you do not sign a contract outlining the terms and conditions of your employment until your actual employment begins. For example, at my last school, TAships were contracted positions and every individual appointment is a new contract. So, you might sign an offer letter saying that you are entitled to X dollars of funding as a TA, you only sign a contract when the TA appointment begins (each term, basically).

Once that contract is signed, the agreement (at least at my school) is that you will complete X hours of work for Y dollars in pay. For students that left in the middle of a term, they have to pay back all wages paid to them for that TA position because they will not have completed all of the agreed-upon TA hours. I know at least one person that had to do this. On the other hand, if conditions outside of our control prevented us from working (e.g. building flooded, profs go on strike, classes cancelled due to underenrollment), then we will still receive the full pay. 

All that was just to say that 1) signing an offer letter does not obligate you to attend a school, 2) accepting an award and signing an agreement could pose some obligations and 3) signing a contract for work in return for pay also poses obligations.

To @WhyNotGradSchool: I would second @Entangled Phantoms's advice. If you want to attend School B over School A, email School A to tell them that you have changed your mind and would like to withdraw. Then once they confirm it, accept School B's offer. Meanwhile, inform School B that you are withdrawing from School A and will be accepting their offer. If School A is taking a really long time to confirm (they shouldn't, though!), then accept School B.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

And re-confirm everything at School B before withdrawing from School A!

Just in case you're using the wrong drugs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now